Wednesday Round Up #134

This week top, anthro, journalism, mind, video games, and culturomics. Plus a great video at the end. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone!!!


Ed Yong, Do Young Female Chimps Play With Sticks As Dolls?
*Four-year old girls are not the only ones who like playing with dolls. Interesting findings from a study of chimpanzees, who carry around sticks as if they are babies. And it’s not just the female chimps who do this, males have also been observed playing “family.”

Dan Hirschman, Polanyi Was Right About Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand
*Adam Smith may not have been as pro-business as we thought. A closer examination of his work shows that he actually disliked corporations.

Paul Jump, Research Intelligence – Rip It Up and Start Again
*Let’s stop using a 17th Century solution to sharing information and use 21st Century technology to overhaul the academic journal system. There’s a growing movement to publish more articles on the internet rather than relying on peer reviewed journals.

Michael Bérubé, The Science Wars Redux
*Thoughtful analysis of how personal agendas influence scientists and shoddy scientific studies can be used to attack theories, like evolution.

Mary Carmichael, DNA, Denial, and the Rise of “Environmental Determinism”
*Nature vs. nurture, the next round – a clear explanation of what genetics does and does not tell us about health, behavior, ourselves

Ben Barres, Neuro Nonsense
*A great review of Cordelia Fine’s new book on gender and the brain

All in the Mind, Cultural Chemistry: Colombia – the Plant that Steals Your Freewill?
*Vaughan Bell investigates the drug burundanga in Colombia. He has a follow-up on Mind Hacks, The Plant of Human Puppets


Fat Cat Rex, An Anthropological Education
*Self-reflexive account of an undergraduate program in anthropology as told by a student exploring what it means to be an anthropologist and the value of ethnographic research.

The Economist, The Disposable Academic
*A brutally honest look at PhD programs and the lack of employment opportunities for recent doctoral graduates.

The Economist, Fire in the Hole
*Mouth-watering guide to barbecue in the U.S. From dry to smoked meat, this article covers a variety of cooking traditions.

The Economist, Debate: Language
*Does language shape our thought? See two prominent experts argue “yes” and “no” and take part in the debate yourself

Spencer Ackerman, Hundreds in Army Social Science Unqualified, Former Boss Says
*Human Terrain smackdown over at Wired

Gene Shackman, Why Does a Society Develop the Way It Does?
*A very useful overview of theories of societal change

Ann Gibbons, Grisly Scene Gives Clues to Neandertal Family Structure
*Mass murder in the past, and forensic genetics today, yield insights into how Neanderthals organized them socially
-Also see Carl Zimmer’s write-up, Bones Give Peek Into the Lives of Neanderthals


Colin Schultz, How Readable is Your Writing?
*Readability is important for journalists, who write for the masses. Google recently came out with a new tool to gauge the readability of writing samples.

Taegan Goddard, Fox News Viewers Often Misinformed
*No one was that surprised by a recent study showing that Fox news viewers are the most misinformed, but it was shocking to see how many continue to questions President Obama’s citizenship.

Bora Zivkovic, The Line Between Science and Journalism is Getting Blurry….Again
*Comprehensive outline of the development of journalism and science, and how the two have started to merge to the detriment of accurate findings and reporting.


Tal Yarkoni, Russell Poldrack, David C. Van Essen and Tor D. Wager, Cognitive Neuroscience 2.0: Building a Cumulative Science of Human Brain Function
*Cross-disciplinary collaborations can advance the field of neuroscience. A look at current tools to help in this endeavor.

Girlpostdoc, The Slipperiness of Empirical Truth
*Studies that uphold null hypotheses tend to be ignored and are rarely published. This issue, among others in scientific projects, has led to a decline in the quality of research.

Stuart Kauffman, We Seem To Be Zombies
*Are the brain and mind the same? Can our minds influence matter? These questions among many others are explored in this post on consciousness.

Tyler Burge, A Real Science of Mind
*MRIs can tell us about what goes on in the brain, but not as much when it comes to emotions, as some recent studies would like to suggest. Burge takes this approach to task as too simplistic in explaining psychological phenomena.

Andy Clark, Extended Mind Redux: A Response
*A follow-up to a previous article on tools and extensions. Clark responds to reader comments and elaborates on his conceptualization of consciousness.

Foundation for Psychocultural Research, Dissociation and the DSM: Why Psychiatry Needs the Cultural Anthropologist
*A summary of a conference discussion of how to improve the DSM

Nicholas Wade, In Map of Brain Junction, Avenues to Answers
*Research on the complete set of 1461 proteins involved in the synapse – basic research with potentially huge benefits

Melody Dye, From across the Reaches of an Internet…
*A wonderful critical review of Steven Pinker’s book The Language Instinct. Also pay attention to Barbara King’s comment on previous critiques

Video Games

Michelle Trudeau, Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills
*Brain training, video game style

J. Snodgrass et al., Magical Flight and Monstrous Stress: Technologies of Absorption and Mental Wellness in Azeroth
*Anthropologists on what video games do for us!


Jean-Baptiste Michel1, Yuan Shen, Aviva Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew Gray, The Google Books Team, Joseph Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, Dan Clancy, Peter Norvig, Jon Orwant, Steven Pinker, Martin Nowak and Erez Lieberman Aiden
Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books
*Exciting new development in the analysis of linguistic and cultural phenomena! Google has compiled a digital collection of English language from 1800 through 2000, making it easier for researchers to study linguistic trends.

Google, Google Ngram Viewer
*Try out the new Google Books yourself. Type in a word or phrase and see a graph of often they appear.

Patricia Cohen, In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture
*A New York Times article looking at the potential impact of this new database.

Ed Yong, The Cultural Genome: Google Books Reveals Traces of Fame, Censorship and Changing Languages
*A Harvard/Google report on the database discusses the growth of the English language, increasing complexity of grammatical structures, and the youthfulness of current celebrities.

Ben Schmidt, Missing Humanists
*Although most researchers are excited about Google Books, some are urging for the greater inclusion of humanists in analyzing the database because of their experience studying cultural heritage.

Mark Liberman, More on “Culturomics”
*A post that praises the database, but also points out the limitations of only looking at the frequency of words and computers in differentiating between different typefaces.

Daniel Little, A New Tool for Intellectual History
*Interesting look at how Google Books can be used to chart the growth of the social sciences.

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One Response to Wednesday Round Up #134

  1. Jeremy Allen says:

    Haven’t read yet, but just came across this article in Nature that you may be interested in,

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